7 Most Bizarre Feral Animal Populations
Escaped zoo animals. Frustrated pet parents. Pet store fires. Whatever the reason, the world is full of animals in places that they never were before. From primates in the United States to tropical birds in decidedly not tropical climates, read on for some of the most unique feral animal populations on earth.
1. Monkeys in Florida.
For over 80 years, a colony of Rhesus Macaque monkeys has made their home not in the mountains and grasslands of Asia but along a river in swampy Florida. In the 1930s, a local tour operator brought 6 of the monkeys to live on an island in what is now Silver Springs State Park. His reasoning? Well, the monkeys brought that special “jungle” feel he was looking for. What he seemed to not have realized, though, was that the monkeys could swim — and swim they did, right off the island. Today there are over 1,000 of the monkeys in the colony. Some have been discovered in backyards hundreds of miles away.
2. Camels in Australia
Australia’s population boomed during the late 19th century, and, camels came along with many of these new settlers. Seen as a cheap and efficient form of transportation, the camels were eventually replaced by automobiles, and thousands were set free. By 2008, there were about one million feral camels — the largest population of wild camels. Since then, the number has dropped due to aggressive government population control efforts and drought.
3. Pigs in the United States.
You’ll find wild pigs all across North America, but none of them are native to the continent. It’s thought that the first pigs traveled across the Atlantic Ocean from their native Europe on Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the new world in 1493. Today, there are over 6 million wild pigs in the United States alone — some are recently-escaped domestic pigs, some the descendants of long-feral pigs, and some the descendants of wild boar that were introduced for hunting.
4. Parrots in San Francisco.
Established flocks of feral parrots can be found on 6 continents for a variety of reasons, most of which remain a mystery. Some were probably pets that were let go by their owners or escaped from their homes. But that doesn’t quite solve the whole mystery — wild parrots usually need to live in a large flock to survive, and captive-born birds wouldn’t have what it takes to stay alive in the wild. What’s more likely, then, is that these flocks are the descendants of birds that were caught in the wild, exported to a new place, and eventually escaped or were let free en masse.
5. Guinea Pigs in Hawaii.
Sometimes, all it takes just one pregnant animal to establish an unwanted feral population. That’s what likely happened in 2008 on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where at least 40 guinea pigs made themselves at home in Nu’uanu.
6. Hippos in Colombia.
Notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar certainly wasn’t shy about throwing around his money — his palatial estate was home to a huge zoo, complete with elephants, giraffes and hippopotamuses. After the Colombian government took control of the property, most of the animals either stayed in captivity on the estate or were donated to zoos across the globe. The hippos, though, were left to their own devices. In the 20 years since, by all accounts, the animals seem to be thriving: the the population has swelled from 4 to 40.
7. Wallabies in the UK.
From the Outback to the British Isles. There are several troupes of these marsupials across the UK, though the largest is found on the Isle of Man and numbers around 100 animals. So how did they get there? Well, remember, wallabies — like their cousin, the kangaroo — are keen jumpers. Every single feral wallaby roaming the U.K. is the descendant of an animal that hopped a fence to escape captivity.
While it can be amusing to spot wallabies in the UK or camels in Australia, feral populations aren’t always seen as welcome guests. When humans transport animals to their non-native habitats, it can wreak havoc on the natural environment. Camels in Australia, for example, depleted water resources and caused some plant species to become extinct. While this isn’t the fault of the animal, it can lead to negative outcomes for everyone.